QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A bill introduced to the House of Representatives this week aims to make things easier for the families of U.S. veterans left financially high and dry after a veteran’s passing. The name on the bill carries the memory of a Queensbury local whose family struggled with that exact challenge.
The Ernest Peltz Accrued Veterans Benefits Act, introduced on Wednesday by NY-21 Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, is named after the son of the man who worked with Stefanik to create it. Charles Peltz stepped up for that work after the loss of his father, Ernest Peltz, a veteran of World War II.
“My father was not only a veteran but a public servant throughout his life,” said Peltz, who is known locally as the conductor of the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra. “He wished only for his government to do the right thing for him and for his brothers in arms.”
Peltz’s father had been approved, before passing away, for accrued pension benefits which can go to ailing or recently-deceased veterans. After he died, that money should have gone to his surviving family, to be used for care and funeral expenses.
That didn’t happen. Due to an error at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the money wasn’t deposited until seven days after Ernest died. Due to that timing, the funds were then pulled, leaving Charles and his family to fend for themselves when it came to Ernest’s hospital bills and other expenses related to his death.
The bill is intended to stop others from facing that same fate. The legislation would ensure in concrete terms that accrued pension benefits would be passed along to surviving family members in the event of a veteran’s death. It would also expand the timeline for eligibility from a week to a month after death, and would change language regarding who can get that money, adjusting from “surviving spouse” to “eligible survivor” – meaning that people like Charles would not be left high and dry.
“Since we brought our concerns to Congresswoman Stefanik, she immediately responded herself and has been a tireless advocate for our family in mitigating the federal bureaucracy of the VA. This bill is an honor to the legacy of my father and countless other veterans, whose families will now not have to navigate unnecessary and disrespectful hurdles when mourning the loss of a loved one,” said Charles Peltz.
The legislation was sponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives. Those sponsors include Tim Ryan (D-OH), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), David McKinley (R-WV), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
“Our nation should take great pride in awarding our veterans the benefits due to them from their service,” said Stefanik. “Sadly, the Peltz family’s encounter with the VA’s bureaucratic red tape is too often the case for many of our veteran families in Upstate New York, the North Country, and across America. I’m proud to take action on behalf the Peltz family and all our veteran families to work to cut down on bureaucracy while families are mourning the loss of a loved one and hero.”
Stefanik has worked on many veterans bills, and in 2021, she cosponsored the Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act. There have been some moves in other directions. In March, she voted against a bill that would provide additional services to veterans exposed to toxic waste while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.